Traditional German Brewday

Last week I asked reddit their opinion on brewing a maibock. Mai have been a bad idea. I ended up doing a decoction an then just for fun I chose to follow the Reinheitsgebot. Having never done a decoction I learned a few valuable lessons.

  • Manual decoction calculations are hard
  • Decoction smells amazing
  • Decoctions sputter and burn you. Gloves required
  • Kettle scorches suck
  • Decoction has an impact on the beer. Naysayers be damned!
  • Fortified my opinion that charcuterie boards are essential for brewing

Recipe and Process


Tap. Following the Reinheitsgebot does not allow for acids and brewing salts. That being said here is my horrible tap water.

  • Calcium: 82
  • Magnesium: 46 (this is why I usually cut with distilled water)
  • Sodium: 26
  • Chloride: 82
  • Sulfate: 66
  • Alkalinity: 210
  • pH: ~8

Aside from the shitty Magnesium content this profile is fairly close to Düsseldorf water. Perfect for Altbier so I figured it should make a palatable Maibock.

Mash pH was adjusted with Acidulated Malt to ~5.5.


  • 56.4% Weyermann Floor-malted Bohemian Pilsner Malt
  • 28.3% Weyermann Vienna Malt
  • 5.4% Weyermann CaraHell
  • 5.4% Weyermann CaraMunich I
  • 3.5% Weyermann Acidulated Malt
  • 1% Weyermann Melanoidin Malt


Here is where things get fun.

Start by heating up your carefully measured volume (1.5 qt/lbs) of water to strike temp. Infuse to get a temp of 97F. Rest for 20 min. Pull off your calculated thick mash amount and begin to heat. Do not stir much because kettle scotches/caramelization is awesome right?  Stir and feel the sugars stuck to the bottom and curse loudly 3-4 times. Once decoction pull has reached 148F rest for 15 min. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. You will notice now that the kettle scorch/caramelization has somehow been lifted off. I chalk that up to the mash pH. When the grain begins to boil have your hand as close to the mash as possible so that you burn your fingers when it sputters. Curse and put on some rubber lab gloves to avoid too many more burns. Boil for 15 min. Add decoction back to your mashtun. Miss temp by 10 degrees as curse again. Staggered cursing is much more effective than cursing prior to mashing. Re work your calculations to ensure the next 2 decoctions hit the right temp. Let the rest of the process go smoothly.

Decoction 1

  • Mash in 97F rest for 20 min
  • Pull decoction portion and heat to 148 then rest for 15 min
  • Boil decoction for 15 min
  • Add back to mashtun and hit 125F (target 135F)

Decoction 2

  • Rest for 5 min
  • Pull decoction portion and heat to 148 then rest for 15 min
  • Boil decoction for 5 min
  • Add back to mashtun and hit 150F (target 148F)

Decoction 3

  • Rest for 45 min
  • Pull decoction portion and Boil for 5 min
  • Add back to mashtun and hit 167F (target 168F)

Vorlauf and then fly sparge @168 to collect appropriate kettle volume.


Stir like crazy when the hot break forms. No ferm cap = easy boil over. The FWH addition helped keep that fairly in check. No boil over!

60 min total

  • FWH with 0.5 oz German Magnum 13.9% AA (20 IBU)*
  • 20 min 0.9 oz Czech Saaz 2.6% AA (4 IBU)
  • 10 min 1.1 oz Czech Saaz 2.6% AA (3 IBU)
  • Chill to 50F

Pitch Wyeast Bavarian Lager 2206 @ 1.75 million cells/ml/P

Ferment at 53F

I still have to do a diacetyl rest and then lager as cold as possible for 2 weeks.


  • OG: 1.071 (1 point higher than expected)
  • FG: N/A 1.016 expected
  • IBU: 27
  • SRM: Unknown but the decoction certainly darkened it! ~ 10
  • BU/GU: 39
  • ABV: 7.13 expected

*I calculate my IBU of FWH the same way as I do with 60 min boil additions as I find FWH calculators widely vary. YMMV.


The people of reddit do not lie. It was a day long event of 7.5 hours total including cleanup. People claim decoctions do nothing, I call BS. Aromas I have never smelled before were wafting all around my brew space. The wort was some of the best I have tasted. The colour got pretty dark! Aside from my first screw up it went well and I enjoyed doing this historical brewing method.

This coming brewday I will take things a little easier with a single hop NEIPA using Idaho 7.

This years magnum is resinous. Check out that hop nugget!


The 23 year Old Lambic Homebrew

Been busy this week and am still dialing in my recipe for tomorrows Maibock. Beer will be my first decoction and will follow the Reinheitgebot. Details to follow in another post. For now a story. Disclaimer: a few minor details have been fabricated because I (and even Ed) may not know them.

The Story

February 20, 1994. It was a mild day in Toronto of about 4C outside when Young Ed got out his brew gear. After a recent trip to Belgium he had discovered the beauty of mixed fermentation. As A homebrewer he knew his next tasks: Research and brew. This was the early days of the internet. No Reddit. No homebrew forums. And certainly no examples available for purchase in Canada. He went forth with confidence. He mashed, boiled and pitched. Once fermentation had stopped in late September he had a brilliant idea. Store it in a corny kegs under the stairs at the family cottage. It could age and evolve uninterrupted there without the temptation of consumption. Brilliant!

Soon after putting his precious cargo to sleep his wide gave birth to their more previous cargo. As we all know babies = homebrew ghosting. Fast forward to 2015. Ed had awoken the beast and begun homebrewing again. He join his local (kick ass) homebrew club. Also while cleaning the family cottage he discovered an old soda keg. Full. Of what you ask? A beverage that rivals that of the best Belgian lambic brewers. Split the batch, some straight and some aged on raspberries for 4 months. Tasting his 2 new babies he knew what needed to be done. Enter it in the largest homebrew competition in Canada. The Brew Slam part of Brewer of the Year.

Well This beverage took best in show. Ed won the opportunity to do a Pro/Am brew at a local craft brewery. Obviously the brewery didnt have 22 years (how old it was when it was judged) to wait for this beer so they went down a different path. A Black NEIPA with raspberries. Long story short the beer was/is amazing and is the 3rd highest rated beer on untappd of that brewery.

How did I manage to get a bottle? Once upon a time after a few homebrews I commented on a picture he posted of the beer saying “I would offer my soul for just a sip”. A few months later I got a FB message asking if my soul was still available. Ed needed a small flavour. I said sure (picked up his plate chiller from an out of towner and held it until I next saw him) and was rewarded far more than I deserved for just being a decent dude. A bottle of the legendary now 23 year old lambic. The beer sat in my fridge for 2 weeks until last evening when my SO and I sipped and cherished the beverage as dinner was cooking. Ed has been keeping my soul in the fridge with a few pints and occasionally lets the dogs play with it.



Crystal clear until the dregs started to slip in. Ruby red. It looked as if we were drinking a liquid gemstone. A few bubbles but nothing that could form a head. Almost like a toned down Champagne.

Extremely clean lactic acidity. Tart raspberries and other field berries. Zero off aromas. Mild tropical fruit and funk. More pleasant than a vast majority of commercial examples.

Bright and clean lactic acidity with a firm tartness. Raspberry tang, Aged hop funk and hay. immediately brought 3F Golden Blend to mind but with raspberries. A wide array of flavours that my palate can only describe as “complexity” in a good way.

Moderately low carbonation. Mildly sweet after the initial tartness that then finished refreshingly dry. Strong lactic acidity. Fairly thin well attenuated body. Draws the cheeks in slightly and begs for another sip.

Overall Impression:
I know I hyped myself about this but holy hell. IMO This kicks the crap out of any North American made sour I have ever had. Even some Belgian lambics fail to compete with this. This is 3F and Cantillon level. It is no wonder this took best in show. Guess I need to forget about some beers for 20+ years!

In case you are wondering what yeast was used… Wyeast 3278 Lambic Blend and some various dregs from back in the day. Stale Hallertau, 65% 2 row and 35% soft wheat

Full Sized Red Wine Barrel

My apologies for not having a weekly post last week. My SOs Grandmother had an extremely close call that kept me from creating a post. Love this blog but family obviously comes first. Instead I made a quick post on imgur of my set up. You can view it here.

Anyways, recently GTA brews aka the homebrew club I belong to acquired a full sized barrel. As part of the team of dirrectors I have paired up with a few others with organizing this project. I have yet to actually see the barrel in person but from what I am told it came from a Niagara winery called Pillitteri. We believe  it previously held Cab Franc. This barrel is going to be held by our good friends at Muddy York. If in the area you have gotta try their stork derby stout! That stuff is to die for. Because Muddy York is a business and a way of life for Jeff (the owner) he has told us the barrel cannot be buggy. We decided to go with a clean imperial saison. Something that will be ready for the summer (hopefully) and benefits from a wine note.

The decided recipe for everyone to brew is as follows. We are allowing for substitutions if need be for obvious reasons. The recipe is written according to my system.

Imperial Barrel Aged Saison


  • Balanced profile
  • 80 Calcium
  • 75 Chloride
  • 80 Sulfate
  • Mash pH: 5.2


  • 66.7% Chateau Pilsen Malt (10 lbs)
  • 26.7% Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt (4 lbs)
  • 6.6% Weyerman Spelt Malt (1 lbs)


  • Mash in at 148F and hold for 60 min with 5 gal (1.33 qt/lbs)
  • Raise Via Induction to 168 for 10 min for mashout
  • Fly sparge @ 168 slowly
  • Collect 7 gal


60 min total
FWH with 0.9 oz German Magnum 11.8% AA (29.7 IBU)*
15 min add Yeast Nutrient and Whirlfloc
10 min 2 oz Czech Saaz 2.6% AA (5.3 IBU)
Chill to 68F


  • Pitch Wyeast 3711 French Saison @ 1 000 000 cells/ml/P
  • Start at 68 and allow to rise to whatever its a saison!
  • Ferment out for 2 weeks
  • Take 1 liter for clean comparison
  • Transfer to barrel with everyone’s contribution and age until “ready”
  • Bottle condition 2 gal with 3.4 vols (cork and cage), Brett 1.4 gal, Fruit remainder.


  • OG: 1.075
  • FG: ~1.005
  • IBU: 35
  • SRM: 4
  • Carboy Volume: 5.5 gal
  • BU/GU: 0.47

At the end of it all I will be able to have 4 of the same base beer to do a sampling with!

*I calculate my IBU of FWH the same way as I do with 60 min boil additions as I find FWH calculators widely vary. YMMV.

Last Brew Days

In the past 2 weeks I brewed up a whopping 22 gallons. 6 gallong of ESB (Best Bitter) for my SO, 10 gallons of Rare Barrel golden sour blend 5.5 gal of Flanders red and 0.5 gal of extra wort from the Flanders brewday that I am attempting a spontaneous experiment on.

The ESB (Best Bitter) brew day went off nearly without a hitch. Had an open ball lock when I began to mash in. Luckily I cause it and only had an oz or 2 of water to wipe up. My SO joined me for that brewday and we had our most enjoyable brew day yet. Shes really getting the hand of this whole brewing thing! 7 day gravity sample of that beer was beautiful and I plan to bottle it this coming Saturday.

The 10 gallon of sour base beer was brewed last Saturday with a friend and fellow homebrewer at his house. We split it onto a 5.5 gal and 4.5 gal (homebrewers and their damned different sized fermentors) batch. The 5.5 has been dubbed Sour Boy and has an amalgamation of 5 dregs from mixed fermentation sour beers and a health pitch of Cali ale yeast form Escarpment Labs. The 4.5 was dubbed Funk Girl and has Orval and Limberlost dregs, some of my wild captured sacch/hanseni and a health pitch of Cali ale yeast form Escarpment Labs. Sour Girl got a little excited and blew her top off after a few days. This was my first drink while I brew day and drinking certainly slowed us down. Lots of fun was had though since I did not have to drive afterwards.

The Flanders red was a perfect brew day. Extra volume and 1 point higher than my expected OG. Efficiency was amazing! The wort was pitched with 3763 Roeselare, WLP665 Flemish Ale Blend, WLP 575 Belgian Style Ale Blend and 5 various Flemish style dregs. The extra 1/2 of spontaneous experimental beer has not yet done anything. Waiting game for now.


Brewing for others: ESB

Saisons, sours and IPAs are all I have brewed this year. And for a good reason! I have 5 IPAs going into a competition this week. I need a change up though and my better half needs something in her pint glass after work. Time for something a little more simple and lower in ABV. An ESB. Actually a Best Bitter but she likes the term ESB better so who am I to argue? And what a perfect time to brew one with my bulk hop order coming in. Half pound each of Cascade and Mosaic and a full pound each of German Magnum, Hallertau Mittelfruh, Huell Melon, Mandrina Bavaria, Citra and EKG. With a fresh batch of EKG coming in my SO and I say down and discussed what she wants in her ESB. We came up with:

  • Moderately high body
  • Bitter (but not too much)
  • Restrained caramel/leaning more toffee (She HATES caramel)
  • Little hint of burnt sugar/raisin/prune (A bit out of style but complimentary)
  • A bit sweet (But not cloying)
  • Sessionable (Low ABV and not overpowering in flavour)

With those guidelines we developed this recipe with a little bit of reddit feedback.

ESB (Best Bitter)


  • Calcium: 100
  • Chloride: 80
  • Sulfate: 121
  • Mash pH: 5.4
  • SO4/Cl: 1.5


  • 92.1% Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter (8.75 Lbs)
  • 5.3% Thomas Fawcett Crystal 45 (1/2 Lbs)
  • 2.6% Briess Crystal 120 (1/4 Lbs)


  • Mash in at 152F and hold for 60 min (1.5 qt/lbs)
  • Raise Via Induction to 168 for 10 min for mashout
  • Fly sparge (yes I know batch would be more traditional) @ 168 slowly


  • 60 min total
  • FWH with 1.625oz EKG 5.2% AA (29.5 IBU)*
  • 15 min Whirlfloc + Nutrient
  • 15 min 0.625 oz EKG 5.2% AA (5.5 IBU)
  • Chill to 68F


  • Pitch Wyeast 1768 Best Bitter @ 750 000 cells/ml/P
  • Start at 68 and allow to rise to 72
  • Swirl fermentor in morning and evening to avoid stalling
  • Bottle condition with 2 vols


  • OG: 1.047
  • FG: 1.013
  • IBU: 35
  • BU/GU: 0.76
  • SRM 9.25
  • ABV 4.3
  • Fermentor Volume: 6 gal

*I calculate my IBU of FWH the same way as I do with 60 min boil additions as I find FWH calculators widely vary. YMMV.

Last Brew Day

Was a lesson. I was just finished brew day. I started to pump water through my immersion chiller as I used my pump to whirlpool. Hands free chilling. I was busy scrubbing away. Once it got down to 68 I turned off my pump and IC. This is where disaster struck. I neglected to turn off my induction burner. As I was transferring the wort to my fermentor I dumped my yeast in when transfer was almost complete, looked up as the thermometer to see it reading 100! DAMNIT. I turned the plate off and touched the side of my SS brew bucket. It was warm. Too warm. Thank god I had a growler full with the same yeast. Transfer the finished carbonated beer out and left the cake with some fresh cooled wort for a new starter. Long story short sometimes being quick is not good. Growler was shared with a few friends that evening with multiple other beers as I was celebrating my birthday.

Fun Fact: That was my wild Sacch/Hanseni that I love so much. I put the fermentor in the fridge (about 58F it’s a poor fridge) while letting the growler culture wake up. Came back and it was just fermenting! Pitched more yeast to be safe.

Update: After giving some beer to 2 BJCP judges neither of them noticed off flavours caused by extremely high pitching temps in the 8 ABV saison.

First Czar (Faux Bourbon Barrel) Review


Jet black. Black hole black. No light escapes. Pours a low light brown head –iPhone pictures do not do justice– that drops in a few minutes to a ring and a thin film of head. Red wine like legs from the ABV.

Toffee and raisin malt notes up front. Mild dark chocolate roast. Low spice from the hops. Oak and coconut. Bourbon barrel. Extremely low soft alcohol note. Toast with a honey drizzle.

Very full body. Low alcohol warmth. Well balanced finish that is neither overly dry nor cloyingly sweet. Low carbonation. Begs to be drank in small sips at a time. Velvety and rich.

Molasses and black forest cake. Raisin, prune and caramel sweets. Heavily toasted bread. background notes of rich chocolate. Bourbon and oak begin to revile themselves more as the beer warms. Brings out a coconut note.

Overall Impression:
Patting myself on the back for this one. As my first RIS (or any Imp black ale) this is a solid sipper. The beer is mainly malt, complimentary notes from the barrel aging and a faint hint of hops. This beer should cellar well until next year. Hopefully oxygen does not get to it before hand.

Next Time:
Switch WLP001 with a high ABV tolerant English strain. Something like 007 to add some light yeasty esters. Carbonate 0.1-0.2 vols more.